Archive for the ‘Matthew 2’ Category

Extending the Borders   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

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Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Adapted from this post

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The Faithfulness of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Return from Egypt, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 63:7-9

Psalm 111

Galatians 4:4-7

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

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Almighty God, you wonderfully created

and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature. 

In your mercy, let us share the divine life of Jesus Christ

who came to share our humanity,

and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Direct us, O Lord, in all our actions by your gracious favor,

and further us with your continual help that in all our works,

begun, continued, and ended in your name,

we may glorify your holy name and

finally by your mercy receive eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 18

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Isaiah 63:7-64:11 is a psalm of lament.  For this week, we read the first three verses.  For more context, O reader, keep reading.  The theme of human (collective) faithlessness, in contrast to divine faithfulness, is prominent.  That theme runs through the other readings, too.

Yet some people are faithful.  They may be Jews or Zoroastrians (Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23).  Either way, they do what God commands.  They may be Jews or Gentiles (Galatians 4:4-7).  They are heirs–literally, sons of God.  (Sons inherited in St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural context.  Daughters did not.)

Grace is free, not cheap.  Just ask God–Jesus, in particular, O reader.  Grace also requires much of its recipients.  Grace transforms its recipients and the world, by extension.  Grace requires faithful response to God, whom nobody should mistake for a divine vending machine.  Yet certain results are predictable.  As logicians remind us:

If x, then y.

In personal matters, I speak and write only for myself, and aspire to do only that.  In my experience, God and grace have seemed closest during dark times.  I have grown the most, spiritually, when the proverbial bottom has fallen out of my life.  God and grace may have been as close during better times, but I have perceived them as being closer during worse times.  Maybe the light merely seemed brighter in contrast to the darkness.

I acknowledge my dependence on grace.  Daily I establish the goal to be the best possible version of myself.  I, being a mere mortal, fail, of course.  But striving for that goal is worthwhile.  It is something.  God can work with something.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, CO-FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; THEOLOGIAN; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

THE FEAST OF SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF SERBS

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Adapted from this post

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Two Annunciations and a Visitation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART III

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Luke 1:5-46

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Consensus among scholars of the New Testament holds that the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke are the that work in miniature.  Luke 1 and 2 introduce themes the rest of that Gospel develops.

Luke 1:5 grounds the audience in time and place.  We read the name of the Roman client king:  Herod (the Great).

Herod the Great (r. 37-48 B.C.E.) married into the Hasmonean Dynasty and founded his own.  The Herodian Dynasty held power (under the Roman aegis) until 70 C.E.  Herod the Great, the Governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.E.), became the King of the Jews in 37 B.C.E.  He had authority in Judea and Galilee.

Consider calendars, O reader.  Judaism had its calendar.  The Romans had their calendar, which started with the founding of Rome–on the B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A/D. scale, 753 B.C.E./B.C.  The B.C.E./B.C.-C.E./A.D. scale dates to what we call the 500s C.E./A.D., when St. Dionysius Exiguus introduced it.  I notice that he miscalculated, for St. Dionysius attempted to place the birth of Jesus one week before the beginning of the year 1 Anno Domini (In the Year of Our Lord).  Yet Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18).  I contend that a tyrant who had been dead for three years could not have ordered that slaughter.  I conclude, therefore, that St. Dionysius miscalculated.

I use “Before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) because I refuse to refer to the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ.”

Much happens, on the surface and beneath it, in these verses.  Some of these are:

  1. We read the identification of St. John the Baptist with Elijah (verse 17), indicating eschatological expectations regarding Jesus.
  2. St. Elizabeth is reminiscent of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.
  3. The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2) is the model for the Magnificat.
  4. We read that St. John the Baptist will go before “him” (verse 17), indicating YHWH, not Jesus.
  5. We are also supposed to think of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15 and 17).
  6. Being disturbed or afraid when encountering an angel is a Biblical motif.
  7. The Holy Spirit is a major theme in Luke-Acts.  It makes its Lucan debut in 1:35.
  8. In Hebrew angelology, there are seven archangels.  1 Enoch 19:1-20:8 names them:  Gabriel, Suru’el, Raphael (who features in the Book of Tobit), Raguel, Michael, Uriel (who features in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra), and Sarafa’el.  An alternative text of 1 Enoch mentions another name, Remiel.  Seven, being the number of perfection, may be symbolic.  Or Remiel may be an alternative name for one of the archangels.
  9. The Lucan theme of reversal of fortune is prominent in the Magnificat.
  10. I recommend consulting Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah--Updated Edition (1993), 358-360, for a detailed, line-by-line breakdown of the Magnificat, with citations from the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Psalms of Solomon.
  11. Childlessness was, in the culture, always the woman’s fault, regardless of biology.
  12. St. John the Baptist was certainly just kicking (1:41).  Unborn children kick.
  13. Verses 5-56 are about what God did and how people responded.

Underneath it all is a celebration of God.  God has taken the initiative–God the Lord, the saviour, the Powerful One, the Holy One, the Merciful One, the Faithful One.  God is the ultimate reason to celebrate.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 89

I agree.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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The Book of Consolation   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XIX

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Jeremiah 30:1-31:40

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The Book of Jeremiah contains distinct sections.  30:1-31:40 is the Book of Consolation.  After all the recent doom and gloom in Jeremiah, some consolation is welcome.

Layers of authorship exist in the Book of Consolation:

  1. A layer dating to the prophet himself,
  2. A layer of the editing of statements dating to the prophet himself,
  3. A layer dating to the Babylonian Exile, and
  4. A layer dating to after the Babylonian Exile.

I acknowledge this and focus on themes.

We read of a divine promise of the end of the Babylonian Exile, with collective spiritual renewal attached the return to the ancestral homeland.

We read of God chastising the covenant community for its sins and devouring those who wanted to devour the covenant community.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The image of God as the Good Shepherd, reversing exile, occurs in Jeremiah 31:10-14.  For other occurrences, read Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34:11-16.  The image of the Good Shepherd applies to Jesus in John 10:1-21.

Jeremiah 31:15 is one of the verses dubiously quoted in reference to Jesus (Matthew 2:18).  (The Gospel of Matthew frequently quotes the Hebrew Bible dubiously in reference to Jesus.)  Jeremiah 31:15 uses the name of Rachel, wife of Jacob, and alludes to Genesis 35:16-21 and 1 Samuel 10:2.  In Jeremiah 31:15, “Rachel” (Jerusalem personified) weeps for those who have gone into exile.  Yet these exiles–or their descendants–will return, we read.  Matthew 2:18 interprets Jeremiah 31:15 as a prediction of the Massacre of the Innocents at Bethlehem, circa 4 B.C.E.

We also read of the remnant of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel reincorporating into Zion.  This element is either historically troublesome or potentially so.

  1. It may refer to those people of Israel who retained their faith joining the spiritually renewed community.  This is not historically troublesome.  The historical record mentions people fleeing Israel, as well as their descendants moving to the ancestral homeland.
  2. However, if the prophecy in Chapter 30 is a version of the prophecy in Chapter 31, we may have a historical problem, O reader.  The historical record tells us that the descendants of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah never reunited.  The combination of genetics and cultural anthropology tells us that Ten Lost Tribes scattered across the Old World–from South Africa to Afghanistan.  And, with the advent of widespread global travel, we can state with certainty that the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes have scattered across the world.
  3. We do not have a historical problem if the fulfillment of this prophecy has yet to occur.

Whenever God will reunite the remnants of Israel and Judah, we read, God will establish a new covenant–one written on human hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Early Christian interpretation of this passage as referring to Jesus explains why the New Testament bears the label it does.  We can thank Tertullian (in full, Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian, c. 160-c. 225 B.C.E.) for that.  In the context of Jeremiah 31, though, the prophecy refers to the internalization of the Torah, therefore, to a spiritual state in which disobedience to God will cease to be an option.

This topic reminds me of an abbreviation of an extended passage from St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430):

Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

The too-abbreviated version is:

Love God and do whatever you please.

The rest of the quote is essential for proper context and understanding.

Anyhow, the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 has yet to come true communally.  Some especially holy men and women may have, by grace, achieved the spiritual state St. Augustine described.  I am not one of them.

Jeremiah 31 concludes with the repetition of divine faithfulness to the covenant people.  God may punish them for their sins, but will never destroy them.  The Jews will remain the Chosen People for all time.  Jeremiah 31:38-40 reverses Jeremiah 1:10.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build up and to plant.

–Jeremiah 1:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is the beginning of one thread.  Then we read Jeremiah 31:38-40:

See, a time is coming–declares the LORD–when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate; and the measuring line shall go straight out to the Gareb Hill, and then turn toward Goah.  And the entire Valley of the Corpses and Ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, and the corner of the Horse Gate on the east, shall be holy to the LORD.  They shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This description of the rebuilding of Jerusalem speaks of a promising future.  Yet I know of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  We may be reading a yet-unfulfilled prophecy.

Or Jeremiah may have gotten this one wrong.  He also predicted the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (46:1-6).  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire never conquered Egypt.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:  THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT SPYRIDON OF CYPRUS, BISHOP OF TREMITHUS, CYPRUS; AND HIS CONVERT, SAINT TRYPHILLIUS OF LEUCOSIA, CYPRUS; OPPONENTS OF ARIANISM

THE FEAST OF DAVID ABEEL, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BENJAMIN SANFORD, U.S. METHODIST THEN CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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The Death of Simon, the Accession of John Hyrcanus I, and the Rest of the Story   1 comment

Above:  Judea Under the Hasmoneans

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXXI

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1 Maccabees 16:11-24

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THE DEATH OF SIMON AND THE ACCESSION OF JOHN HYRCANUS I

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Above:  John Hyrcanus I

Image in the Public Domain

The First Book of the Maccabees is primarily the story of the leadership of Mattathias and three of his five sons:  Judas Maccabeus, Jonathan, and Simon.

The Hasmonean Dynasty was not immune to the darker side of human nature.  Simon had appointed his son-in-law Ptolemeus son of Abubus the commander of the plain of Jericho.  Ptolemeus, greedy for wealth and power, plotted to kill Simon and Simon’s sons Mattathias and Judas, drunk, at a banquet.  Ptolemeus killed those men, but he did not succeed Simon.  Ptolemeus did notify King Antiochus VII Sidetes and request assistance in a coup d’état.  Ptolemeus also sent men to execute John Hyrcanus I and seize control of Jerusalem.  John Hyrcanus I, warned, escaped, had the would-be-executioners killed, and succeeded his father as the High Priest.

Shortly after John Hyrcanus I died in 104 B.C.E., the anonymous author of 1 Maccabees wrote.  The work ended as it began:  stife and infighting.  1 Maccabees, a riveting story (and a good read, especially in The Revised English Bible, 1989), is a cautionary tale.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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THE REST OF THE STORY

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For the full version of the rest of the story, consult Flavius Josephus, O reader.

John Hyrcanus I conquered Moab and Samaria.  He also ordered the destruction of the temple at Gerazim.  He died of natural causes.

Above:  Aristobolus I

Image in the Public Domain

Aristobolus I (reigned 104-103 B.C.E.) succeeded his father and assumed the title of king.  King Aristobolus I had his brother and mother killed.

Above:  Alexander Jannaeus

Image in the Public Domain

Alexander Jannaeus (reigned 103-76 B.C.E.), another son of John Hyrcanus I, succeeded Aristobolus as the High Priest and the king.  Alexander Jannaeus married Salome Alexandra.  During his reign, strife between Pharisees and Sadducees divided the kingdom.

Above:  Salome Alexandra

Image in the Public Domain

Salome Alexandra (reigned 76-67 B.C.E.) succeeded as the queen.  During these years, Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus and Alexandra, served as the High Priest.

Above:  Hyrcanus II

Image in the Public Domain

Hyrcanus II briefly reigned as king (67 B.C.E.) after the death of Salome Alexandra.

Above:  Aristobolus II

Image in the Public Domain

Aristooolus II (reigned 67-33 B.C.E.) had struggled with his brother Hyrcanus II for years.  The two brothers continued their struggle, transformed into a civil war, after Aristobolus took over.  The Roman Republic intervened in the civil war, first on the side of Aristobolus II.  Then the Romans deposed Aristobolus II and removed him to Rome in 63 B.C.E.  Roman General Pompey installed Hyrcanus II as the High Priest.  Yet the real ruler of Judea, was minister Antipater, who worked for the Roman Republic.  Judean independence had ended.

Rebellions ensued.  Hyrcanus II and Antipater worked for the Roman Republic.  Julius Caesar appointed Hyrcanus II an ethnarch (47-41 B.C.E.).  Antipater died of poisoning in 43 B.C.E.

Above:  Antigonus II Mattathias

Image in the Public Domain

Herod the Great, son of Antipater, entered the picture.  Herod and his brother Phasael served as Roman tetrarchs in 41-40 B.C.E. Then the Parthians installed Antigonus II Mattathias, brother of Hyrcanus II, as the Judean king and the High Priest.  Phasael committed suicide.  Herod fled to Rome.  High Priest Hyrcanus II became a mutilated (no ears) captive in the Parthian Empire.  The struggle between Herod the Great and Antigonus II Mattathias ended in 37 B.C.E.  Herod reigned as a Roman client king until he died in 4 B.C.E.

Above:  Mariamne I

Image in the Public Domain

Herod the Great married into the Hasmonean Dynasty, merging that family with his.  He married Mariamne I, granddaughter of Aristobolus II and Hyrcanus II, in 37 B.C.E.  Then Herod the great began to execute Hasmoneans:

  1. High Priest Aristobolus III (d. 35 B.C.E.)
  2. Hyrcanus II (d. 30 B.C.E.)
  3. Mariamne I (d. 29 B.C.E.)
  4. Alexandra, mother of Mariamne I (d. 28 B.C.E.)
  5. Alexander, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I (d. 7 B.C.E.)
  6. Aristobolus, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I (d. 7 B.C.E.)

Consider the account of the Massacre of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18), O reader.  It is consistent with the character of Herod the Great.

Herod the Great, at the end of his life, had terminated the male line of the Hasmonean Dynasty.  Yet the Hasmonean genetic heritage continued.  The three daughters of Herod the Great and Mariamne continued to live.  Furthermore, Aristobolus, the strangled son of Herod the Great and Mariamne I, had a daughter, Herodias.  She had a daughters, Salome.  Herodias persuaded Salome to request the head of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12).  Herod Agrippa I was a client king of the Roman Empire from 37 to 44 B.C.E.  He persecuted Christians, and died in Acts 12:22-23.  His son, Herod Agrippa II, ruled as a Roman client king (50-100 B.C.E.).  He died childless.  With him the Herodian Dynasty ended.

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EVALUATION

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So, as we–you, O reader, and I–stand at the end of this series and ponder the Hasmoneans and their legacy, we ask, what was their legacy?  Robert Doran’s answer may prove useful.

…the author also acknowledges that the Maccabees had been the family through whom God had wrought deliverance in Israel.  He emphasizes that God does act faithfully to the people if they attempt to follow God’s commandments.  Torah faithfulness, a longing to serve God at the Temple and at the place God has chosen, vibrates throughout [1 Maccabees].  One may question whether today one should follow the same war tactics as Judas and his brothers did; one may be dismayed at the open acceptance of ethnic cleansing as a means to follow God’s commandments.  But one cannot question whether the Maccabees fought according to their own convictions to keep alive the worship of the God of Israel.  For that, their name will be remembered.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), 178

Doran wrote at the end of 1 Maccabees, when, as he put it:

The heady days of the opening revolt against the Seleucids have been replaced by Hasmonean institutionalization.

–178

Hasmonean institutionalization watered the seeds of destruction the sons of the old priest Mattathias had planted.  Good intentions paved the road to hell.  And Herod the Great brought down the final curtain upon the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the First, Second, and Fourth Books of the Maccabees.  It has been an intellectually and spiritually rewarding project for me.  (There is seldom a line separating the spiritual and the intellectual for me, actually.)  I pray that this reading project has had a similar benefit for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP MENANCTHON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND SCRIBE OF THE REFORMATION

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FREDERICK MARTIN, SR., AND CHARLES AUGUSTUS ZOEBISCH, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKERS

THE FEAST OF LOUIS (LEWIS) F. KAMPMANN, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX BISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

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The Kingdom of This Earth, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Everlasting God, direct our actions according to thy good pleasure,

that in the Name of thy Beloved Son, we may abound in good works;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-5

Psalm 98

Hebrews 2:1-8

Matthew 2:11-21

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Understanding Isaiah 11:1-5 requires one to back up into Chapter 10.  The Neo-Assyrian Empire, described poetically as majestic cedars of Lebanon, will fall, we read.  God will cut that empire down to size, we read.  Yet real strength will emerge from the Davidic Dynasty.  The ideal Davidic monarch will govern justly, we read.

The Bible tells us much about divine justice.  Both Testaments are replete with this content.  Obviously, we–you, O reader, and I–do not live in the ideal Davidic kingdom or even the fully-realized Kingdom of God on Earth.  Yet our governments can become more just, by a combination of grace and active faith.

Tyrants still hold sway in many places.  God is still their judge.  God is still your judge, O reader.  God is still my judge.  And repentance remains crucial.  All of that is true.

So is what follows.  God, the Incarnation, can and does identify with we mere mortals.  Jesus is able to help us, for he know temptations, too.  And the Holy Spirit is our defense attorney (John 14:16, 26; 1 John 2:1).  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  We may safely dismiss one of the great heresies, hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  We may not safely dismiss, however, the warning that God does have standards.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  This Christmas season, may the kingdom of this Earth come to resemble more closely the Kingdom of God, for the glory of God and for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MAURA CLARKE AND HER COMPANIONS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 2, 1980

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF GERALD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; HIS BROTHER, BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HORMISDAS, BISHOP OF ROME; AND HIS SON, SAINT SILVERIUS, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 537

THE FEAST OF SAINT RAFAL CHYLINSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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A Covenant People, Part I   2 comments

Above:  Journey of the Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Feast of the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles;

mercifully grant, that, we, who know thee now by faith,

may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 42:1-12

Psalm 145

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6

Matthew 2:1-12

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I the LORD, in My grace, have summoned you,

And I have grasped you by the hand.

I created you, and appointed you

A covenant people, a light of nations–

Opening eyes deprived of light,

Rescuing prisoners from confinement,

From the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

–Isaiah 42:6-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The assigned readings for this feast day speak of God’s love for all people and of our human responsibilities to each other and to God.  Notice, O reader, that the audience for Isaiah 42:5f is collective, not individual.  We who carry Western individualism wherever we go need to check it at the door when reading texts that do not come from that assumption.  Psalm 145 tells us that God is just in all His ways, that God sustains those who fall and lifts up all who are bent double.  That example tells us what our character should approach, does it not?

Herod the Great was a terrible man.  He, a client king within the Roman Empire, had relatives and strangers killed, so he could maintain power.  The young Jesus constituted a threat to Herod, whose political legitimacy was questionable.  The client king appeased certain religious authorities by sponsoring the expansion of the Second Temple, but that long-term construction project could not hide his perfidy.  Herod was a negative example.

Jesus is the ultimate positive example, though.  He is the one into whose likeness we, by grace, are coming to resemble more and more as time passes.  He is the one we must proclaim, if we are to lead Christian lives.  Christ is the light that properly shines through our lives in the darkness of the world.

Does that light threaten us or attract us?  Does it shine in our lives?  Is it apparent in both our words and our deeds?  I mean “our” and “us” both collectively and individually, for the audience for Isaiah 42:5f was a covenant people, and society consists of people.  When enough people change their lives, society changes.  But does it change for better or for worse?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF YVES CONGAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI, AND OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN BISHOP IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 857

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Hope in Christ   1 comment

Above:  Magi

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, Second Service, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Glory be to thee, O God in the highest, who by the birth of thy beloved Son

has made him to be for us both Word and Sacrament:

grant that we may hear thy Word, receive thy grace,

and be made one with him born for our salvation;

even Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 60:1-6

2 Timothy 1:8-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Before I get to my main point, I note that two years or so passed between Matthew 2:1 and 2:2.  The gospel reading, therefore, has more to do with the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6) than the Feast of the Nativity (December 25).

Hope has always been essential.  Lack of it has led to despair, addiction, violence, and other spiritual, medical, psychological, and social ills.  Hope was essential for disappointed former exiles in Isaiah 60; their ancestral homeland did not meet their high expectations.  Hope was essential for Jews living under occupation in their homeland.

Hope remains essential for people in all circumstances.  Jesus offers much hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOFE

THE FEAST OF JOSE DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 9, 2019 by neatnik2009 in 2 Timothy 1, Isaiah 60, Matthew 2

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Resisting Tyrants and Authoritarians   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod the Great

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth:

mercifully hear the prayers of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Ezekiel 34:11-16

Ephesians 4:17-24

Matthew 2:16-23

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Herod the Great was one of the bad shepherds, to use the figure of speech from Ezekiel 34, of antiquity.  He was also a cruel man who had no qualms about ordering the deaths of relatives and strangers alike.  He was a man in need of renewal of the mind.

Questioning the authority of tyrants and authoritarians is a moral duty.  If one really takes seriously the call to effect justice, one must resist tyrants and authoritarians, certainly bad shepherds.  Doing so is far from being unpatriotic; it is quite the opposite, and in the best interests of the general populace.

If one is not in a position in which one needs to oppose a tyrant or an authoritarian, one is fortunate.  Such a person may wind up in that position in time, though, given the current rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the world.  Unfortunately, many people who claim to follow God support tyrants and authoritarians.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Posted October 28, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 4, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 2

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Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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